It’s not unusual for a person to notice that the odometer reading on their car title isn’t right. This could be the result of previous odometer tampering, but it’s most likely a simple error that was overlooked. Either way, you’ll want to know how to correct the mileage on a car title so you can get as much money as possible when it comes time to sell it again.
Correcting the Car Title
If you notice something wrong on your car title, you want to get it fixed as soon as possible. From our end, the trouble with giving you step-by-step instructions is that each state takes these corrections differently. When in doubt, check with your local DMV.
The majority of states use the same process. This requires you to lightly cross out the error and then fill out the appropriate paperwork to have your title amended with the information you provide.
You might also need to pay a fee for the processing. Whatever you do, make sure you NEVER correct a car title by:
Completely blocking out information
Attempting to erase it
Using correction tape or fluid
These actions will void your title entirely and cause you to need a duplicate instead of just a replacement.
Does the Age of the Car Matter?
Some states don’t require an odometer reading on the title if the vehicle is older than a certain amount of years. In this situation, the title likely says something along the lines of “EXEMPT” somewhere near the mileage statement.
When you aren’t required to change the mileage, you might feel that leaving it alone is best. That’s a judgment call you will have to make for yourself.
Why Would the Odometer Reading on a Title Be Wrong?
There are several reasons you might see odometer discrepancies on the title. Chances are it’s one of these two reasons.
A common cause of incorrect mileage on a title is because of sheer guesswork. Many people don’t take the time to actually look at their odometer when they record the number on their title.
It’s vital that you record the mileage properly before you fill out your title. This is one of the biggest impacts on your sale price, and if you’re off by a lot it could easily get you accused of odometer fraud.
In some cases, the mileage might be off because of odometer tampering. This typically occurs when the seller manipulates the odometer or records it inaccurately to trick a buyer into paying extra. Unfortunately, odometer fraud is more common than you might think.
Here are some steps to protect yourself from odometer fraud:
Make sure you compare the mileage on the title with the mileage on the odometer. Especially if the title’s mileage is higher, ask the seller to explain it.
Ask for some maintenance records or inspection records. You can compare mileage recordings from those with the vehicle as well.
Look for warning signs that the car is older than you are told, like excessive rust or damage repairs.
Run a vehicle history report to look for past odometer discrepancies.
Common Warning Signs of Odometer Tampering
As you search for your next used car, there are some telltale signs that odometer tampering has occurred. Look for these and you’ll be a savvy shopper. Then, you won’t have to attempt to correct the mileage on a car title later.
The average mileage on a vehicle is 12,000 miles per year. While this number can vary slightly, you want to have your guard up on anything that claims to be much lower than that. Ask lots of questions and see if you can determine the true reason the car doesn’t have a lot of miles. If in doubt, walk away from the sale.
A typical set of tires should last up to 60,000 miles. If you are looking at a vehicle with fewer miles that has all new tires, you might want to question why. Sometimes, this indicates that the car is actually older than you thought.
Look at the title
Sometimes people are afraid to ask to see the title before money changes hands. Don’t be. You have every right to inspect this before making a purchase – not just for odometer tampering, but also for title washing.
Examine the area around the dashboard and inspect for missing screws. This is often a sign that the odometer has been messed with.
Look closely at the brake pedal and the floor mat. If it looks like it’s been used more than normal, chances are the car might have more miles than you thought.
Another thing to look for is the alignment of the odometer numbers. If they aren’t straight, this is also a sign something was tampered with. In addition, General Motors puts black spaces between the numbers on their odometers. If these are white or silver, you might have altered mileage numbers.
On electronic odometers, some manufacturers installed an asterisk that displays after tampering has been detected.
If the car comes with any maintenance or inspection records, you should examine them carefully. Many of these will have the mileage recorded on them which could help you uncover the mystery of what the actual mileage might be.
When a car travels into the high-mileage territory, its components start to show their age.
You can check the engine, steering, braking, and suspension yourself to some extent, but a pre-purchase inspection is valuable for discovering mileage concerns (and for many other reasons).
Any trusted mechanic should be able to estimate the mileage of a vehicle before you purchase it. This extra expense is valuable to make sure that you don’t buy a lemon and to ensure you never need to correct the mileage on a car title.
What to Do if You Suspect Odometer Fraud
Odometer tampering is illegal. It’s a federal law not to tamper with a car’s odometer, so any offender is committing a felony. If you suspect odometer fraud, contact your local DMV to report it right away.
If you encounter a dealership or private party selling a car that’s had its odometer tampered with, consider reporting the situation to the authorities.
Whether you need to correct the mileage on a car title because of a mistake or as a result of odometer tampering, your local DMV will help you move forward. Make sure you correct the title accurately and fill out the appropriate paperwork. Then, you can get a fixed title and have everything in order in to prepare for when you are ready to sell the car.
Title Gods specializes in recovering lost car titles and solving all kinds of title-related issues. We are not attorneys. This article is not legal advice.